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Image: Dr. Dudek standing in front of Regions Hospital

Regions Hospital, HealthPartners welcome new doctor, new program to cancer research

Cancer patients at Regions Hospital to get more experimental treatment options.

Minnesota is about 4,500 miles from home for Arek Dudek, MD. But he jumped at the chance to return to a state where he had learned so much.

“Minnesota is a special place for me,” he explained. “My kids grew up here. I have a tight connection to the community and to my patients as well.”

As a young doctor at the University of Minnesota, he was struck by the fact that his patients were seeing him for care only after chemotherapy had been tried and failed. He knew that cancer treatment had to change in order to combat the complexities of the disease.

“Patients were coming with a hope to find a better treatment that targeted their cancer,” Dudek said. “Clearly, the only way to give them hope, or perhaps a chance of surviving, was to look to experimental therapeutics. Finding something new and innovative became my motivation.”

Patients noticed his compassion and desire to help. He made it his work to identify new therapies. He also researched the basic biology of a tumor. He learned that great research was being done. He took it upon himself to help bring early phase clinical trials directly to his patients.

Starting something new in Chicago

In 2012, Dudek left to build a clinical trials office at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago (UIC).

He partnered with Joanna Hill on the administrative side. They created a program that allowed him to work directly with researchers at UIC. That program also got the attention of leading drug companies.

“The discoveries were laying around just waiting for someone to pick them up and develop them into new drugs,” Dudek said. “We were able to bring some of those medicines to clinical trials and there are more on the way.”

Within a couple of years, a nationally recognized program was built. However, Dudek’s ties to Minnesota never went away, and some of them even came to him.

Longing to be back in Minnesota

“My patients from Minnesota would travel to Chicago to see me with a trial or without the trial. That is very unique,” said a humbled Dudek.

Dudek started at Regions on July 1. Joanna also relocated and started a couple of months before. Together they are again building an early phase clinical trial program from scratch, which is set to start in September. There could be as many as seven different trials running at the same time by the end of the year. They are targeting 30 trials in the program’s first three years.

Proceeds from the Regions Hospital Foundation’s Wine Auction will support the early phase clinical trial program.

Watch this FOX News video for more information on the experimental treatment options.

Video screenshot:  Twin Cities cancer patients now have more options when it comes to experimental treatments
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